ACT residents were left reeling after a week of smelly surprises, The Canberra Times reported on this day in 1974, as raw sewage flowed through Queanbeyan River and Lake Burley Griffin after two sewage leaks occurred within seven days of each other.
Both leaks were caused by the Morrisett Street sewage-pumping station in Queanbeyan. The second leak saw 300,000 gallons of sewage unleashed when the duty pump at the station stopped.
The first leak was described by the senior health inspector for the South Coast region of the NSW Commission as a "oncer", but the second leak proved him wrong, and he said the breakdown was an unfortunate incident and most irritating. The health inspector, Frank Arneil, noted that the second leakage was not as serious as the first, as the sewage had been diluted by rainwater which entered the sewerage pipes.
The Queanbeyan City Council delayed in informing ACT authorities of the leaks on both occasions.
The acting secretary of the Department of the Capital Territory, E. H. McGrath, said he was "disgusted and dismayed" at the council's "cavalier" attitude.
Mr McGrath said the failure to warn Canberra showed a disregard for the health of ACT citizens which was deplorable and indefensible.
The lake was shut to the public, and would not be reopened until the end of the following week at the earliest.